If you want to know New York, get to know its street cuisine. I learned it early. Growing up in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, I would get a lunch of two hot dogs in steam-soft rolls from the guy who set up his stainless-steel pushcart on the corner of 17th Street every morning, rain or shine, Saturdays and holidays, summer-fall-winter-spring.
The Lower East Side has always been a playground for oddballs, creative types who diverge from Manhattan's mold. It's a quirky neighborhood filled with idiosyncrasies and secrets stuffed in blocks and buildings. These days, south of Union Square is trending, a wonderland of bars, movie houses, and restaurants that offer a refreshing contrast to Midtown.